Fleet News

Jaguar S-type 2.5 V6 auto



THE corporate customer is being hunted by Jaguar. The firm's recent behaviour suggests its principal mission is to dine out on the meaty mainstream of UK corporate drivers.

We have the X-type and its sub-£20,000 price tag, the dropping of the beautiful F-type in favour of a pragmatic diesel programme and the introduction of this cheaper, more accountant-friendly S-type.

The 201bhp, 2.5-litre is the smallest engined S-type, and comes along at the same time as Jaguar has given the car a few tweaks. The dashboard is more like other Jaguars, it gets an electronic parking brake and new auto box. The suspension has been altered for better ride and cornering and the oval grille has the Jaguar badge incorporated into it now, making it look less agape than before.

Our test car had the new six speed box, although the base spec car comes which a manual shift. The auto means a price hike of £1,250, but the vast majority of Jags are sold as autos, despite the negative fuel consumption and carbon dioxide implications, so this is the one we will compare.

So how does it stack up as a fleet choice? We have chosen two competitors that are heavyweight fleet vehicles, the BMW 525i four door auto and the Audi A6 2.4SE four door Multitronic.

The BMW and Jaguar are very closely matched with on- the-road prices, at £26,620 and £26,200 respectively. The A6 is cheaper at £24,900 but is the closest Audi match on power.

If outright performance is key, then the 201bhp of the S-type's meaty V6 is the one to go for with a 0-60mph of just over nine seconds. Although this is marginally slower than the BMW, the six ratios up against the 5-series' five means strong acceleration is more readily available throughout the Jaguar range.

In fact, the Jaguar's six-speed ZF box is about the best on the market. It is always up with the driver's intentions and kicks down at all the right times.

The A6 is the slowest of the three, at 9.5 seconds. However, the rabbit out of the hat for the A6 is that its CO2 emissions are less than its manual geared brother, at 233g/km, compared to 240g/km.

But that's not good enough to knock the S-type off its perch, for despite having the most powerful engine, most torque and being the heaviest, it has the lowest CO2 rating, at 229g/km, compared to 233g/km for the A6 and 247g/km for the 525i.

What this means for the 40% taxpayer is that the A6 is still the cheapest because of its lower P11D price: £24,720 at 28% equals an annual tax bill of £2,769. The S-type is the next most expensive. A P11D of £26,020 and a tax bracket of 27% means a tax bill of £2,810 a year, while the BMW wallows way behind at £3,279 a year thanks to a P11D of £26,440 and a tax bracket of 31%.

Be warned though: by the third year, all will be taxed at 31% or above, with the BMW in the top bracket of 35%.

But what are drivers getting for that money? All three cars are down at the bottom end of their respective ranges, so they will not resemble Harrods on wheels. Neither the BMW nor Jaguar get leather seats or a CD player, although the S-type does have fully electrically adjustable front seats and steering column, automatic headlamps, electronic parking brake, Dynamic Stability Control and side curtain airbags.

The cloth-seated A6 has a six CD changer, cruise control, trip computer, traction control and an Electronic Stability Programme. It is the best specced of three, but the Ritz it is not.

From the fleet manager's point of view, the cost per mile of all three cars is as tight as it is possible to get.

After depreciation, service, maintenance and repair and fuel are taken into consideration, there is 0.32 pence per mile between them. It looks like this battle will be won elsewhere.

In terms of rental, the figures supplied by HSBC Vehicle Finance put the S-type first at £522.74 a month for a three year, 60,000 mile contract, with the A6 just behind at £525.35 and the BMW further back at £551.93. The Jaguar wins here because of strong residuals – 40% of value retained, with 37% for the BMW and 35% for the Audi.

Fleet verdict

That the 5-series is still a fierce contender is testament to what a Hall of Fame car it is. And soon it will be retired to the Hall of Fame, when its replacement gets shown towards the end of the year.

Drivers in this sector are famously prissy about driving the latest and greatest, and may not want to be lumbered with an old style 5 while the rest swan about in the new one. For this reason, and slightly higher costs, the BMW is first to drop out.

The winner between the S-type and the A6 will come down to personal taste as there is no single flaw to split them after the calculations are done.

The Audi has a better specification, but not by so much to push it ahead of the Jaguar, and the Jaguar has better ride and handling, and feels more sumptuous, although the Audi feels better built.

In the end, I think that stepping out of my front door every morning to the sight of that fabulous sculpted long bonnet wins it for the Jaguar. Even in its cheapest form, the S-type oozes class.

Behind the wheel The first shock is to sit in an S-type that doesn't have leather seats. A number of passengers commented on this surprising turn of events: Jags without leather don't feel right. This oddity can be rectified for £750 and has to be worth it, even if just for second hand attractiveness and peace of mind.

After that, the new interior, with the horseshoe instrument panel now looks like the other cars in the Jaguar stable, the walnut, J gate automatic transmission and big cat looking out from the steering wheel give off all the right signals.

What doesn't is the horrible ignition key slot, which is pure Mondeo and stares blandly out at you from the flat dash, and the bargain basement LCD display, which is again lifted from a Ford parts bin. Against the digital readout of the new Mercedes E-class, it is like comparing a Sinclair Spectrum with an Apple iMac.

Space in the S-type boot seems to have been sacrificed in the name of rear-end style. It is fine in length and width, but depth is sorely lacking.

Those grumbles aside, the S-type is a good drive. The 2.5-litre engine has more than enough power even for such a big car and the auto box in sport or casual mode does a good job of sorting out what ratio is needed when.

The ride is as good as you would expect from a Jaguar, although it sits low to the ground and has to be crept over speed bumps to avoid a lot of scraping.

Being rear wheel drive, the nose turns in sharply, especially thanks to a number of suspension revisions, which help it feel more nimble and contain excessive body roll well.

The seats are very comfortable, the driver sits low and the steering and brakes are a match for the competition.

Driving verdict

In all, the new S-type is an improvement on an already good car. Add in leather and with a CD player, and it should be very tempting bait for corporate drivers.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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